Scientists are talking for the first time about the old idea of resurrecting extinct species as if this staple of science fiction is a realistic possibility, saying that a living mammoth could perhaps be regenerated for as little as $10 million.
The same technology could be applied to any other extinct species from which one can obtain hair, horn, hooves, fur or feathers, and which went extinct within the last 60,000 years, the effective age limit for DNA. [...]
There is no present way to synthesize a genome-size chunk of mammoth DNA, let alone to develop it into a whole animal. But Dr. Schuster said a shortcut would be to modify the genome of an elephant’s cell at the 400,000 or more sites necessary to make it resemble a mammoth’s genome. The cell could be converted into an embryo and brought to term by an elephant, a project he estimated would cost some $10 million. “This is something that could work, though it will be tedious and expensive,” he said.
Not to mention the cost of building a woolly mammoth preserve, and really they’d have to do it a bunch of times so we’d have some breeding stock. So probably more like $100 million or more. But we’d have woolly mammoths! I say we ask the jackbooted thugs of the IRS to show up at the house of every libertarian and shake them down until we have enough money.
Of course, there are other possibilities besides mammoths….
The full genome of the Neanderthal, an ancient human species probably driven to extinction by the first modern humans that entered Europe some 45,000 years ago, is expected to be recovered shortly. If the mammoth can be resurrected, the same would be technically possible for Neanderthals.
But the process of genetically engineering a human genome into the Neanderthal version would probably raise many objections, as would several other aspects of such a project. “Catholic teaching opposes all human cloning, and all production of human beings in the laboratory, so I do not see how any of this could be ethically acceptable in humans,” said Richard Doerflinger, an official with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Dr. Church said there might be an alternative approach that would “alarm a minimal number of people.” The workaround would be to modify not a human genome but that of the chimpanzee, which is some 98 percent similar to that of people. The chimp’s genome would be progressively modified until close enough to that of Neanderthals, and the embryo brought to term in a chimpanzee.
“The big issue would be whether enough people felt that a chimp-Neanderthal hybrid would be acceptable, and that would be broadly discussed before anyone started to work on it,” Dr. Church said.
I believe a chimp-Neanderthal hybrid would not merely be acceptable, it would be an essential step towards making the world that much cooler! Flying cars and transporters, here we come! (Wait, if we have transporters, why do we want flying cars?) I want to have a plug-in slot installed in my skull so I can become addicted to pleasure when I’m not instantly downloading everything I need to know to be able to build my own robots with Asimov circuits so I can order them to jump out windows or I’ll kill myself.
Alternatively, maybe it’ll lead to humanity being enslaved by talking apes. Either way, I’m for it.